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The Elvin Jones Project-- Michael Feinberg

Feinberg's The Elvin Jones Project is as much a salute to four outstanding bassists who played alongside Jones as it is to the great drummer himself. Being a bassist, Feinberg was struck by the work of Jimmy Garrison, Dave Holland, George Mraz, and Gene Perla with Jones, and chose tunes from various recordings, plus one original, to perform on this session. The group Feinberg assembled for his third CD includes saxophonist George Garzone, trumpeter Tim Hagans, pianist Leo Genovese, drummer Billy Hart, and guest guitarist Alex Wintz. Garzone not only played with Jones, but his own powerful trio, The Fringe, with bassist John Lockwood and Jones-influenced drummer Bob Gullotti, could easily undertake a project such as this one. Hart was a close friend of Jones, and like Elvin his playing can range easefully from subtle shadings to controlled aggression. The veteran, versatile Hagans is known for his polished lucidity. The Argentinian Genovese, now Boston-based, is an up-and-comer currently touring with Esperanza Spalding.

The two tunes focusing on Feinberg's favorite bassist Jimmy Garrison are John Coltrane's "Miles Mode" (from the 1962 Coltrane album), and "Nancy with the Laughing Face" (from Coltrane's 1962 Ballads). Garzone's exhilarating tenor solo on "Miles Mode" sounds like a cross between '50's Coltrane and present day Joe Lovano, what with its bluesy shouts and slurred phrasings. Genovese channels McCoy Tyner with his own Don Pullen-like enhancements. Feinberg's bass improv possesses much of Garrison's approach in its resonance and agile thrust. Feinberg's endearing arco rendition of the melody of "Nancy with the Laughing Face" is bolstered sensitively by Genovese and Hart. The pianist's lyrical solo is followed by the leader's pizzicato reprise, and then Garzone and Hagans gracefully interweaving for one final look at the enduring Jimmy Van Heusen theme.

George Mraz is represented by two tunes from Jones' 1982 Earth Jones release. The title piece by Jones, with Genovese on Fender Rhodes, has a mystical quality characterized by the airy harmony of Garzone and Hagans and Feinberg's booming ostinato. Garzone's understated solo is succeeded by a contrapuntal dialogue between he and the more exclamatory Hagans. Genovese embarks on an expressive, multi-colored solo before tenor and trumpet reconvene. Hart's drumming throughout is both incisive and flavorful. Another Jones opus, "Three Card Molly," has a thrusting, bristling theme that is delivered engagingly by Garzone and Hagans. The trumpeter's improv soars, slipping and sliding with nuanced harmonic intricacy. Feinberg's compelling walking bass lines drive on Hagans, as well as the propulsive modal workout by Genovese. Hart's spot is cymbal obsessed initially before his dynamic attack expands to his full panoply, and he also remains up front during the high energy reprise.

Compositions that were outtakes from two 1972 Jones recordings, Live at the Lighthouse, Vol. 1, and At the Point In Time, serve as tribute to the brilliant, somewhat forgotten, Gene Perla. The ensemble's bustling theme treatment of Steve Grossman's "Taurus People" leads to Genovese in a spaced-out Keith Jarrett vein, with Feinberg and Hart in a tenacious supporting role. The pianist soon kicks into more flowing individualistic gear, and his gentle enticements during Garzone's winding, long-phrased solo are also noteworthy. Frank Foster's "Unknighted Nations" is a lively Latin/funk mix that provides a springboard for Wintz's nimbly executed guitar solo, Hagans' darting trumpet excursion, and Hart's outing that evinces the muscularity and tonal diversity of Elvin Jones at his best.

Feinberg's original, "It is Written," was inspired by the teaming of Dave Holland with Jones on the 2001 album simply titled Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones. This lovely, atmospheric track features Hagans and Wintz in both glowing harmony and gracefully melodic solo turns. The bassist's appealing ostinato and Genovese's unassuming, ringing Fender Rhodes inflections are key ingredients along the way.

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Scott Albin